11/21/14 – Church of Boston

The club was pool-tabled, low-ceiling, and people-scented, all in ways that validated the authenticity of its roughness. Welcome to Church, an oasis of booze and people-watching located in the West Fens of Boston—a venue for people who don’t exactly know what they’re listening to, but want to listen more.

Among the diffuse dancing couples and the crowd of otherwise young- to middle-aged men, there performed the lifeblood, the engine of the operation: Elephant Wrecking Ball. EWB for short.

If the audience wasn’t there for the music, they were for the experience—the dancing, the awkward swaying, the drunken stumbling—and EWB facilitated their activity as well as rocking drums, grooving bass, and distorted trombone could. The trio’s unique instrumentation enticed people with even just a modicum of rhythm in their bones to jam, in whatever way, to EWB’s loud but minimalist sound. 

The groove sat nicely between drummer Neal Evans and bobbing bassist Scott Flynn. They propelled the songs forward with orchestrated repetition and spontaneous, mellifluous mutation. A syncopated tom hit, an unexpected bass fill—the dynamic pulse of the rhythm section, sometimes in a recognizable time signature, sometimes an enigmatic thudding (they are elephant wrecking balls, after all), laid a funky foundation for a brick house of melody.

The mason, the trombonist Scott Flynn, got to work with simple, bluesy melodies and riffs, often distorted with echo, delay, doubling, and a noise that sounded something like wah-wah underwater. These effects helped fill the expansive space, but as the single horn, there’s only so much you can do—simple melodies aren’t always compelling filler.

To fill some space, and because why not, the band invited “Gabe,” a pale, unassuming guitarist (double-necked guitarist i.e. plays guitar with two necks) to join them. The crowd adored Gabe before he even graced the stage, and when he did, it was worship. The man slid his fingers down the guitar strings, producing ambient, sci-fi-esque tones. Then, without warning, Gabe would switch necks, assume a facial expression of intense concentration, almost as if meditating, and go apeshit. Distortion, scales, speed. “GABE,” the audience agreed. 

EWB, while maybe not as overtly hardcore as Gabe, seemed hardcore in the bodies of funky fusion players. Songs such as “Stomp Stomp Stomp,” “Scream Plunder,” and the exquisitely named “Crushing Chipmunks” suggested their not-so-furtive ruggedness. “Stomp Stomp Stomp,” with its cascading bass lines, subtle dissonance, and swaying harmonies, could compel even inept dancers to bob along and hard rockers to cringe (in a good way).

Elephant Wrecking Ball does their name justice—generating pulsating and powerful rhythms, a stampeding flow. The trick is figuring out what to put into the flow to sustain long, groovy songs and long, groovy sets. Luckily enough, booze and dancing are adequate substitutes. 

Stampeding: Elephant Wrecking Ball
Pros
  • Enticing groove and spontaneous playing
  • Unique sound - cool trombone effects
  • GABE
Cons
  • Cool, but limiting instrumentation
  • Songs difficult to differentiate sometimes
6.6Overall Score

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